Author Archives: habitatdana

Spreading Wood Fern, Dryopteris expansa

Spreading Wood Fern               The Wood Fern Family—Dryopteridaceae

Dryopteris expansa Adans.

(dry-OP-ter-is  ex-PAN-suh)

Names:  Dryo- comes from a Greek word meaning tree, or more specifically oak—the same root as is found in the words dryad and druid.  Pteris means fern.  Expansa means expanding or spreading.  Botanical synonyms include D. austriaca, D. assimilis, and D. dilatata.  This species is also known as Arching, Northern, Spiny, Redwood, or Creekbank Wood fern; Northern, Alpine or Broad Buckler Fern; or Shield Fern.

Relationships: There are about 250 Dryopteris sp. in the temperate northern hemisphere.  They are generally called Wood Ferns, Male Ferns, or Buckler Ferns.  Many are popular ornamentals.  About 18 species are found in the mainland United States, (several naturally occurring hybrids, too), about a dozen are native to Hawaii.

Distribution of Spreading Wood Fern from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Spreading Wood Fern is native throughout much of the temperate regions in the northern hemisphere, from the subarctic to high altitudes in southern mountains.  In the U.S. it occurs from Alaska to northern California, mostly west of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon; it also is found spottily in the Rocky Mountain States, in the Great Lakes region, and eastern Canada.

Growth: Spreading Wood Fern grows to 3 feet (1m)

Habitat: It grows in moist forests, streambanks, and mountain slopes. Wetland designation: FACW, It usually occurs in wetlands, but is occasionally found in non-wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters: Deciduous fronds are usually clustered and erect to wide-spreading. They are triangular to oblong shaped; 2-3 pinnate.  The lowest pinnae pair are usually longer, triangular and asymmetrical.  Spore cases are rounded, on the undersides of pinnae.  The erect or ascending rhizome often produces offshoots, which may be divided.

In the Landscape: Spreading Wood Fern is easy to grow and its fine-textured, lacy leaves are ideal for a woodland garden.

Use by natives: Northwest natives ate the rhizomes, baking them in pits overnight.  Pounded roots were applied to cuts.  The leaves were soaked and used to wash hair.  Eskimos removed the chaffy covering and boiled the fiddleheads and ate them with seal oil and dried fish or in soups.  The root has been used to treat internal parasites, such as tape worms.

Use by Wildlife: Spreading Wood Fern is eaten in small amounts by Blue Grouse and Mountain Goats.  Some Dryopteris sp. are used as a larval food plant for moths.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Other Wood Ferns:

Coastal Wood Fern, Dryopteris arguta, is more common in California and western Oregon but can be found in a few locales northwards to areas surrounding Vancouver, B.C.  It is also known as Marginal Wood Fern, or Western Shield Fern.  Arguta means sharp-toothed.  Coastal Wood Fern grows in moist forest edges, rocky sea cliffs and drier oak woodlands.  It has scale-like chaff on its leaf stalk and evergreen glandular leaves.  Fronds are feather-shaped, 20-60 cm. long, 1-pinnate; deeply cut pinnae have small, tiny teeth along their margins.

Spinulose Wood Fern, Dryopteris carthusiana, is widespread across temperate and arctic regions in the northern hemisphere.  It is also known as Toothed Wood Fern, Narrow Buckler Fern or Shield Fern.  Spinulose means having small spines; carthusiana means from the Chartreuse Mountains in the French Alps.  Deciduous, 20-70 cm long, fronds are narrow and 2-3 pinnate, with the lowermost pinnae about the same length as adjacent pinnae.  It is preferred moose forage.

Male Fern, Dryopteris felix-mas, is common throughout much of the northern hemisphere.  It is found throughout northeastern and western North America, only spottily in the Pacific Northwest.  Felix-mas means fruitful or happy male.  Deciduous, sometimes evergreen, non-glandular fronds are broadly lance-shaped, 20-120 cm long, and 1-2 pinnate.  This very popular garden ornamental grows vase-like and withstands some drought in shade.  Some cultivated varieties are available.  It is often used for cut flower arrangements.  It is considered poisonous, but the root has been used to expel tapeworms.

 

 


 

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina

Lady Fern                                                                   The Wood Fern Family–Dryopteridaceae

 Athyrium filix-femina(L.) Roth

(a-THEER-ee-um  FIH-liks–FEH-min-uh)

Names:  Athyrium possibly comes from the Greek athyros, meaning doorless, referring to the late opening of the spore cases.  Filix-femina means fern-lady, referring to its delicate fronds in comparison to the Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas. (Felix means happy or fruitful/fertile; a happy or fruitful lady could also be an appropriate name for this aggressive fern!)

Relationships:  There are about 180 species of Athyrium worldwide; with only two species in the mainland United States.

 

 

Distribution of Lady Fern from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Lady Fern is abundant throughout the northern hemisphere; found in all the states and provinces in North America.

 

 

 

Habitat: It grows in moist to wet forests, meadows and streambanks. Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

Growth: Lady Fern grows to 6 feet, (2m) tall.

 

Diagnostic Characters: It has large, feathery 2-3 pinnate fronds, tapering at both ends, arising from a cluster of scaly rhizomes.  Sori, or spore cases, are elongated and curved, oblong to horseshoe-shaped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Landscape: This species, with its graceful, lacy, bright, yellow-green fronds, is very eye-catching.  It may, however be a little too aggressive for a formal garden, but is ideal for a wild, moist, woodland garden, where it can freely multiply.  It dies back completely in winter.  Some may consider the withered fronds a bit unsightly.

Use by people: Natives ate the roots/rhizomes after roasting or baking in a pit.  They should always be cooked prior to consumption; many ferns contain carcinogens, so caution is advised.  A tea made from the rhizomes or stems were used for various women’s complaints and to ease pain.  The leaves were used to cover camas while baking, to cover berry baskets and to wipe fish.

Use by Wildlife: Roosevelt Elk and deer Eat Lady Fern in the fall on the Olympic Peninsula, but it is not a major food species.  Grizzly Bears also eat the fronds.

Alpine Lady Fern, Athyrium americanum is found on open, rocky slopes along streams in our mountains.  It is also known as A. distentifolium var. americanum, or A. alpestre var. americanum.  It is much smaller, with narrower, crinkled fronds.

 

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Western Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum

Western Sword Fern                                   The Wood Fern Family–Dryopteridaceae

 Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) C. Presl

(Pol-ee-STIK-um  mew-NEE-tum)

Names: Polystichum means many rows, referring to the arrangement of the spore cases on the undersides of the fronds.  Munitum means armed with teeth, referring to its toothed fronds.  Western Sword Fern is also known as Sword Holly Fern, Giant Holly Fern, Christmas Fern, Pineland Sword Fern, or Chamisso’s Shield Fern.

Relationships: There are about 260 species of Polystichum worldwide with about 16 native to North America; and about 10 native to the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Distribution of Western Sword Fern from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Western Sword Fern is found from southeast Alaska to the central California coast, mostly on the west of the Cascades; eastward to northern Idaho into northwest Montana.  Disjunct populations have been found in South Dakota and on Guadalupe Island off Baja California.

 

 

 

 

Growth: Western Sword Fern grows up to 4.5 feet (1.5m) tall.

Habitat:  It is usually found in moist forests, but it is probably the most adaptable of all our ferns and can take a bit more sun than other ferns and some dry periods. Wetland designation: FACU, it usually occurs in non-wetlands but occasionally is found in wetlands.

Sword Fern is very common in the understory in our westside forests.

Diagnostic Characters: Large, erect fronds form from a crown of scaly rhizomes.  Fronds are once-pinnate with alternate pointed, sharp-toothed leaflets; each leaflet with a small lobe pointed forward at the base.  Sori (spore cases) are large and round arranged in two rows on the undersides of the fronds halfway between the midvein and margins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Landscape: Western Sword Fern is the most widespread and versatile of all our native ferns.  Although at home in woodlands, it often adapts to drier, sunnier sites in landscapes.  Its tall arching fronds are most impressive planted in drifts in a woodland garden.   When grown in the sun, the fronds are dwarfed and more erect; and have pinnae (leaflets) that are crisped and crowded so that they overlap and appear overlapping.  Young ferns are also more frilly-looking.

 

Phenology: Fronds partially unroll their “fiddleheads” by late May; by late July the spores are near maturity.

Sword Fern Fiddleheads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use by natives:  The roots/rhizomes were generally viewed by natives as a famine food. (This plant probably should only be consumed in small quantities, if at all, due to possible presence of carcinogens or other toxins.)  The rhizomes were peeled and then boiled or baked in a pit on hot rocks covered with fronds.  The fronds were used frequently for lining baking pits and storage baskets; and were spread on drying racks to prevent berries from sticking.  They were variously used for placemats, floor coverings, bedding; and for games, dancing skirts and other decorations.  They are frequently used today in flower arrangements.

Use by wildlife:  Western Sword Fern is browsed by deer, elk, Black Bear and Mountain Beaver; frequently eaten by Roosevelt Elk on the Olympic Peninsula. The fronds may be used as nesting material for rodents.

 

Western Sword Fern outcrosses frequently and hybrids have been identified from crosses with Anderson’s Holly Fern (P. andersonii), Mountain Holly Fern, (P. scopulinum) California Sword Fern (P. californicum), Shasta Fern (P. lemmonii), and Narrowleaf Sword Fern, (P. imbricans)

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Hardy Fern Library

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Other Polystichum sp., native to the Pacific Northwest:

Narrowleaf Sword Fern, P. imbricans is similar to Western Sword Fern and once was classified as a variety of P. munitum.  It is smaller (20-60cm) with overlapping, somewhat infolded leaflets and only scarcely scaly stipes (petioles).  It is a better choice for a sunny spot.

Anderson’s Holly Fern, P. andersonii is much rarer; found in deep woods in the mountains.  Fronds grow to 1 meter.   It has a conspicuously chaffy fiddlehead and leaf stalk.  Pinnae are deeply cut making it appear doubly pinnate.  Bulblets form at the base of pinnae near the tip and may grow into a new plant when the frond touches the ground!

Anderson’s Holly Fern

Braun’s Holly Fern, P. braunii, is big (to 1m) and has twice pinnate leaves with no basal lobes. It grows in moist woodlands.  (Native to British Columbia, southern Alaska, the Idaho panhandle—Listed as threatened or endangered in several eastern U.S. states).

California Sword Fern, P. californicum, has finely toothed leaflets rather than the prominently toothed leaflets in Western Sword Fern; each tooth is short, ending abruptly. It will grow in a variety of habitats from moist, shaded woods to open slopes, and dry, rocky terrain.  It is rare in Washington & Oregon, listed as sensitive in Washington, only found in or near the Cascades in Pierce & Thurston counties).

Kruckeberg’s Holly Fern, P. kruckebergii is believed to be a fertile hybrid of P. lonchitis & P. lemmonii. It is found sporadically in the Cascades, Sierras, & Rocky Mountains on rocks and cliffs and is considered rare or imperiled in Alaska, Montana, Idaho, California and B.C.; and “of concern” in Oregon.  Fronds are about 10-25cm long.  Short leaflets are oval to triangular, overlapping and twisted; with teeth tipped with spines.  It is named after Dr. Arthur Kruckeberg, the well-known botanist and native plant gardener and enthusiast.

Kwakiutl Holly Fern, P. kwakiutlii is known only from the type specimen, collected at Alice Arm, British Columbia in 1934. It is presumed to be one of the diploid progenitors of P. andersonii.  It also produced bulblets, but differs from P. andersonii in its completely divided pinnae (leaflets).  Kwakiutl is a name applied to the native people in British Columbia on Vancouver Island and surrounding areas.

Lemmon’s or Shasta Holly Fern, P. lemmonii: Fronds are twice pinnate; pinnae have no spines and are overlapping and twisted, making it appear cylindrical.  This species grows in serpentine rock crevices; and is found sporadically in the Cascades from B.C. to northern California.  It is only known from one site in B.C. where it is listed as threatened.

Northern Holly Fern, P. lonchitis, grows in mountains, often in rock crevices, throughout much of the northern hemisphere.  Lonchitis is from the Greek logch meaning spear, referring to its spear-shaped leaves.  It is once pinnate with spiny leaflets; resembling a miniature Sword Fern.  It is listed as endangered in New York; and is on a review list in California.

Mountain Holly Fern or Rock Sword Fern, P. scopulinum is also like a smaller Sword Fern but is shinier and more leathery with spiny-toothed leaves.  It is nearly bipinnate with long hairs on the teeth of each leaflet.  It is found in dry coniferous forest or more commonly on cliffs and talus slopes.  It is more frequent east of the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains; it also grows in eastern Canada.

Alaska Holly Fern, P. setigerum, is presumed to a hybrid between P. munitum and P. braunii.  Fronds are 2-pinnate about the middle, finely spiny-toothed.  It is found in lowland coastal forests in Alaska and B.C.  It may be able find a niche in a cool, moist woodland garden.

 

American Cranberrybush, Viburnum opulus

American Cranberry Bush

Viburnum opulus L. var. americanum Aiton

(Vi-BUR-num  OP-yoo-lus)

Names: The specific epithet, opulus appears to refer to the Italian Maple, Acer opalus (opalus for opal), due to its maple-like leaves, rather than any opulent characteristic.  Viburnum opulus is sometimes called Highbush Cranberry in our region, but that name is more often used for Viburnum edule. The American Cranberry Bush (also known as V. trilobum) is a variety of the European Cranberry Bush.  The species and some of it’s cultivated varieties are known in in other parts of the world as Guelder Rose, Water Elder, European Cranberrybush, Cramp Bark, or Snowball Tree.

Relationships: There are about 150-175 species of Viburnum in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere with a few species found in mountainous regions of South America, Southeast Asia & Africa (in the Atlas Mountains). There are about 20 native to North America. Many species are popular garden and landscape plants. Several hybrids and cultivated varieties. have been developed. They are grown for their flower display and/or showy fruit, Some have fragrant flowers; some with attractive or unusual evergreen leaves or fall color.

Distribution of American Cranberrybush from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Viburnum opulus is also native to Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. It is found from southern British Columbia and in scattered locations in Washington State (on the fringes of Lake Washington, the Columbia River Gorge and near the Idaho border.); eastward, it is found sporadically across the northern United States and Canada, more common in the Great Lakes region to the eastern seaboard.  American Cranberry Bush is listed as endangered in Indiana; threatened in Ohio; and rare in Pennsylvania.  It is distinguished, with difficulty from the European form which occasionally escapes cultivation (more often in the eastern U.S.), by its skinnier somewhat longer stipules, and shorter, squatter petiolar glands.

The popular cultivated Snowball Viburnum, Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’

There are several cultivated varieties, including the well-known Snowball Shrub (or Tree), ‘Roseum’ (or ‘Sterile’), which gets its name from the snowball-shaped clusters of sterile flowers; it appears to have originated in the Dutch province of Gelderland, the derivation of its other common name, “Guelder Rose.”

Growth: This species can be a large shrub growing to 12-15 feet (1-4m) tall and as wide or wider.

Habitat: American Cranberrybush is found in moist, open woods. Wetland designation: FACW-, it usually occurs in wetlands, but is occasionally found in non-wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters: Opposite leaves are palmately 3- veined and 3-lobed and coarsely toothed.  Flowers are a typical, white “lace-cap”—a flat-topped cluster of tiny flowers ringed with larger, showier, sterile flowers.  Red, shiny fruits are berry-like drupes, each with a flattened stone.

 

In the Landscape: Having long been a garden favorite, Viburnum opulus, is an outstanding landscape shrub.  The species has attractive lacy, white flowers in the summer, followed by bright red berries.  It has spectacular fall color.  This large, spreading shrub can be used as a specimen plant, for screens, or may be placed at the back of a shrub border.  Children enjoy using the flower heads of the sterile form for spring time snowball fights!

American Cranberrybush has spectacular fall color

Phenology: Bloom time: May-July; Fruit ripens: September-October. Persisting through winter.

 

Propagation: Seed propagation is difficult. Seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe; it may take more than 18 months to germinate.  Stored seed requires 2 months warm and 3 months cold stratification and may still take 18 months or more to germinate.   Cuttings root easily. Softwood cuttings may be taken in early summer; half-ripe wood in July or August; or mature wood in winter.  Layering is also possible.

Use by people: Kalnya (Viburnum opulus) is a national symbol of Ukraine.  Ancient Slavs associated it with the birth of the universe.  Its berries symbolize blood and family roots. Kalyna is often depicted in Ukrainian embroidery.  The fruit of European varieties tends to be bitter and is not used for food.  The berries of American Cranberry Bush can be used as a cranberry substitute for making jellies and preserves, but the fruit may cause mild stomach upset when eaten unripe, and large quantities may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Some natives mashed the berries and dried them into cakes for future use.  The dried bark has been used in preparations to alleviate painful menstrual or stomach cramps, hence the common name “Cramp Bark.”  A red dye or ink may be made from the fruit.  Stems without pith were used to make popguns in the absence of elderberry.

Use by Wildlife: Thrushes, robins, and Cedar Waxwings are considered the principal seed dispersers.  The fruit is perhaps not a favorite of wildlife; it is not normally eaten by birds until after it has frozen and thawed several times.  It is, however, known to be eaten by deer, moose, foxes, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, mice, rabbits, grouse, pheasants, and other songbirds. This large shrub provides cover and nesting sites for many small animals. It is a larval host for the Spring Azure Butterfly and sometimes attracts aphids.   The flowers are pollinated by insects.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum edule

High Bush Cranberry

Viburnum edule (Michx.) Raf.                                Caprifoliaceae-the Honeysuckle Family

(Vi-BUR-num  ED-yew-lee)                (Newer classification Adoxaceae-the Moschatel Family)

Names: The name Viburnum comes from the Latin word for Viburnum lantana, the Wayfaring Tree. Highbush Cranberry is also known as Squashberry, Mooseberry, Moosewood Viburnum, Lowbush Cranberry, Few-flowered Highbush Cranberry, Pembina, Pimbina, or Moosomin ( in Cree Language).  It has also been known as V. opulus var. edule and V. pauciflorum (meaning few-flowered).  Edule means edible.  Highbush Cranberries get their name from their cranberry-like red berries that grow on tall shrubs, in contrast to true cranberry plants, Vaccinium (Oxycoccus) sp. which are small creeping shrubs or vines.

Relationships: There are about 150-175 species of Viburnum in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere with a few species found in mountainous regions of South America, Southeast Asia & Africa (in the Atlas Mountains). There are about 20 native to North America. Many species are popular garden and landscape plants. Several hybrids and cultivated varieties. have been developed. They are grown for their flower display and/or showy fruit, Some have fragrant flowers; some with attractive or unusual evergreen leaves or fall color.

Distribution of Highbush Cranberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution:  High Bush Cranberry is found all across the northern United States and Canada; from Alaska to central Oregon in the west.  It is listed as endangered in Wisconsin; threatened in Michigan, New York, and Vermont; and of ‘Special Concern’ in Maine.

 

 

 

 

Growth: High Bush Cranberry grows 1.5-9 feet (.5-3 m) tall.

Habitat: It is found in moist woods, forest edges, rocky slopes, along streams, and in swamps.   Wetland designation: FACW, It usually occurs in wetlands, but is occasionally found in non-wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters: Its leaves are opposite, usually shallowly palmately 3- lobed and sharply toothed; sometimes looking almost like a dinosaur footprint.  The white flowers are all alike in small clusters, with no ring of sterile flowers.  Fruits are red or orange berry-like drupes, each with a large flattened stone.  Bark is smooth and reddish-gray.

In the Landscape: Highbush Cranberry has attractive flowers and fruit, and brilliantly colored foliage in the fall.  It is one of the most sought after shrubs for the wildlife gardener to attract birds to their garden.  The tart berries may be enjoyed by both people and wildlife.

Phenology: Bloom time: May-July; Fruit ripens: Late summer persisting through winter.

Propagation: Seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe; it may take more than 18 months to germinate.  Stored seed requires 2 months warm and 3 months cold stratification and may still take 18 months or more to germinate.  Cuttings are easier.  Softwood cuttings may be taken in early summer; half-ripe wood in July or August; or mature wood in winter.  Layering is also possible.

Use by People: The tart fruits were an important food to many tribes.  They were harvested, sometimes while still greenish, or later after the first frost, and stored in boxes with water and oil; becoming softer and sweeter over time.  They were sometimes dried.  The fruits make excellent jams, jellies, juices, or sauces.  Pojar & Mackinnon state: “When mixed half-and-half with commercial cranberries, they make an excellent Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.”  Raw fruit can cause nausea in some people if it is eaten in large quantities.  The bark was taken for coughs and digestive disorders; leaves and twigs were used to make a gargle for sore throats.  The stems were used for birch bark basket rims.

Use by Wildlife: Highbush Cranberries are eaten by bears and many small mammals and birds.  Foliage is browsed by elk, Bighorn Sheep, deer, moose, caribou, beaver, rabbit, and snowshoe hare.  The plant also provides cover for small mammals and birds.  Butterflies visit the flowers.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa

Red Elderberry                           Caprifoliaceae-the Honeysuckle Family

                                                  (Newer classification Adoxaceae-the Moschatel Family)

Sambucus racemosa L.

(sam-BEW-kus  ra-see-MO-suh)

Names: The name Sambucus is derived from the Greek sambuca, which was a stringed instrument supposed to have been made from elder wood. Racemosa refers to the elongated inflorescences, called racemes.  It is thought the name elder comes the Anglo-saxon ‘auld,’ ‘aeld’ or ‘eller’, meaning fire, because the hollow stems were used as bellows to blow air into the center of a fire. Our Red Elderberry has also been known as S. callicarpa (callicarpa=beautiful fruit).  Some identify our local plants as S. racemosa ssp. pubens var. arborescens; (pubens because of the downy pubescence beneath the leaves, and arborescens because of its tree-like form.)  It also may be called Mountain Red Elderberry, Scarlet Elder or Elderberry, Racemed Elder, or Bunchberry Elder.  A purplish-black-berried form, Rocky Mountain Elderberry, S. racemosa var. melanocarpa is also found through much of the west.

Relationships: Sambucus is a genus with 5-30 species depending on how they are “lumped” or divided.  Most are native to the northern hemisphere with a few in Australia (and neighboring islands), and South America.  Blue Elderberry, American Elderberry, and Red Elderberry, are the only Elder species native to the United States (other named species are now lumped into these species).

Distribution of Red Elderberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Red Elderberry is native to Europe, temperate Asia, and North America.  It is found throughout most of the United States and Canada, excluding only the far north of Canada and Alaska, and the central and southern United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growth: Red Elderberry grows 3-9 feet (1-6m); often tree-like in our region.

Habitat: It grows in moist sites; shady or open forests, streambanks, and moist clearings. Wetland designation: FACU, it usually occurs in non-wetlands but occasionally is found in wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters: Leaves are opposite, pinnately divided into 5-7 leaflets.  Leaflets are lance-shaped, toothed on the margins, and often somewhat hairy underneath.  Tiny, white to creamy flowers are borne in pyramidal clusters.  Berries are usually bright red, sometimes purplish-black, or rarely yellow or white.  Stems are soft, and pithy. The foliage, branches, and flowers have an unpleasant odor when crushed.

In the Landscape: Red Elderberry is especially attractive in woodland gardens.  Its vase-like, arborescent form creates an umbrella-like canopy over smaller woodland shrubs.  Overgrown plants can be severely pruned.  Red Elderberry is used for revegetation, erosion control, and wildlife plantings.  It may be relatively tolerant of heavy metal contamination, so may be useful in restoring habitats around mining and smelting sites.

 

 

 

Phenology: Bloom time: April-July; Fruit ripens: July-August.

Propagation: Stratify seeds warm for 90 days, then stratify for 90 days at 40ºF (4ºC), or sow as soon as seeds are ripe in a cold frame.  Scarification may speed up or increase germination rates.  Heat from a fire can crack the hard seed coat, and it has been shown that seeds have faster and higher germination rates after passing through the digestive tract of birds or bears.  Light may also improve germination rates.  Seeds may require 2 years to germinate.  Cuttings of half-ripe wood may be taken in July or August; cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth in late fall.  Suckers may be divided and dug in the dormant season.

 

Use by people: Natives steamed the berries on rocks and put them in a container stored underground or in water, eating them later in winter.  Leaves, bark or roots were applied externally to abscesses, aching muscles, or sore joints.  Roots or bark were chewed or made into a tea to induce vomiting or as a laxative.  Flowers were boiled down to treat coughs and colds.  Hollow stems were used for whistles, pipes and toy blowguns.  Although they have sometimes been eaten fresh, it is advisable to always cook the berries before eating, raw berries may cause nausea.  The seeds are considered poisonous.  Cooked berries can be made into wines, sauces or jellies.

 

Use by wildlife: Old Skykomish chiefs reportedly ordered people not to burn brush where Red Elderberries grew because the deer ate the ripe berries.  Deer and elk will eat the foliage, bark and buds, but Red Elderberry is usually not a preferred browse; palatability increases after frost and probably varies with relative cyanide content of individual plants.  Many birds eat the berries including thrushes, robins, grouse, and pigeons.  Squirrels, mice, raccoons, and bears also eat the fruit.  Bears will also eat the foliage and the roots.  Porcupines, mice and hares eat the buds and bark in winter. Flowers are pollinated by bees, flies, and the wind.  Fruit-eating birds and mammals disperse the seeds.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea

Blue Elderberry                         Caprifoliaceae-the Honeysuckle Family

                                                  (Newer classification Adoxaceae-the Moschatel Family)

Sambucus nigra L. ssp. cerulea (Raf.) R. Bolli

(sam-BEW-kus  NY-gruh  [subspecies]  sair-rule-leah)

Names: The name Sambucus is derived from the Greek sambuca, which was a stringed instrument supposed to have been made from elder wood. Nigra means black; caerulea means sky-blue.  It is thought the name elder comes the Anglo-saxon ‘auld,’ ‘aeld’ or ‘eller’, meaning fire, because the hollow stems were used as bellows to blow air into the center of a fire. Blue Elderberry was sometimes known as S. glauca; it is more commonly known as Sambucus cerulea (or caerulea), but many botanists feel that it and the American Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, are just a subspecies of the well-known European species, the Black Elder, Sambucus nigra.

Relationships: Sambucus is a genus with 5-30 species depending on how they are “lumped” or divided.  Most are native to the northern hemisphere with a few in Australia (and neighboring islands), and South America.  Blue Elderberry, American Elderberry, and Red Elderberry, are the only Elder species native to the United States (other named species are now lumped into these species).

Distribution of Blue Elderberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Blue Elderberry is found from southern British Columbia to California; to western Montana through west Texas.

Growth: Sometimes tree-like, Blue Elderberry grows 6-12 feet (2-4m).

 

Habitat: It is generally found in drier open forests, edges, and slopes; often along roadsides. Wetland designation: FACU, it usually occurs in non-wetlands but occasionally is found in wetlands.

 

Diagnostic Characters:  Blue Elderberry has opposite, relatively large, pinnately-divided compound leaves with 5-9, broadly lance-shaped, smooth, toothed leaflets.  Small, creamy white flowers are borne in flat-topped clusters.  Berries are bluish-black, with a waxy bloom, making them appear powdery blue.  Twigs are soft and pithy.

 

 

In the landscape: Elders can be a little wild but overgrown plants can be cut back severely.  Blue Elderberry can be used as a hedgerow, as a screen, or planted at the edge of a forest.  It is most often grown for its edible berries and to attract birds.  It is also valuable for revegetation projects, and to stabilize slopes and streambanks.

 

Phenology: Bloom time: May-July; Fruit ripens: August.

Blue Elderberry usually has a blue waxy bloom on the berries, but not always…

Propagation: Stratify seeds warm for 90 days, then stratify for 90 days at 40º (4º C), or sow as soon as seeds are ripe in a cold frame.  Blue Elderberry is easily propagated by cuttings; either semi-hard wood in July or August or hardwood in autumn.  Layering is also possible.

Use by People: Elder trees were important in Celtic folklore and mythology; they were considered sacred to fairies and were used for making wands.  The “Elder Wand” was one of the “Deathly Hallows” in the Harry Potter book series.  In Europe, elderflowers are widely used to make syrups, cordials and liqueurs.  The pith was by watchmakers for cleaning tools before intricate work.  The fruit, on both continents, is often used for wine, jellies, candy, pies, and sauces.  Northwest natives ate the berries fresh, dried, steamed, or boiled.  Raw berries, especially if they are not fully ripe, may cause some people to experience an upset stomach.  The bark and leaves were used to induce vomiting and as a laxative; externally applied, they were used for pain, bruises, swelling, and as an antiseptic. The flowers were made into a tea to treat cold and flu symptoms.  The berries were used to make a black or purple dye; the stems to make an orange or yellow dye.  Hollow twigs were used for flutes, whistles, pipes, blowguns and squirtguns; whistles were use to call elk.  The soft wood was used as a twirling stick to make fire.

Use by Wildlife: Blue Elderberry is an extremely valuable shrub for wildlife.  It provides valuable cover and nesting sites for birds and small mammals.   Its fruit provides food for many species of birds including: jays, woodpeckers, pigeons, grosbeaks, robins, thrushes, bluebirds, towhees, tanagers, and many others.  Squirrels and other small mammals also eat the fruit.  Flowers are mostly pollinated by insects but hummingbirds will visit the flowers for nectar.  Elk and deer browse the foliage.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus

Common Snowberry           Caprifoliaceae-the Honeysuckle Family

 Symphoricarpos albus (L.) S.F. Blake

(sim-for-ih-CAR-poes  AL-bus)

Names: Symphori- means “bear together;” –carpos means fruits– referring to the clustered fruits.  Albus meaning white, and the common name, Snowberry also refers to the white fruits.  This species is sometimes known as Waxberry, White Coralberry, or White, Thin-leaved, or Few-flowered Snowberry.

Relationships: The genus Symphoricarpos has about 15 species, mostly native to North and Central America, with one from western China; 12 are found in the United States.  Western Snowberry, S. occidentalis, and Mountain Snowberry, S. oreophilis, are mostly found on the east side of the Cascades.  Trailing Snowberry, S. hesperius will be discussed in the groundcover section.  S. albus var. laevigatus (meaning smooth) is the most common phase found on the Pacific slopes and is more aggressive than the eastern form; it has also been known as S. rivularis or S. racemosa var. laevigatus.  It is more aggressive and differs from the S. albus var. albus by being larger, with larger berries and less hairy twigs and leaves.  It often escapes cultivation in the eastern United States, and has naturalized in parts of Britain.

Distribution of Common Snowberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Common Snowberry is found from southeast Alaska to southern California; all across the northern United States and the Canadian provinces.

Growth: This species usually grows 3-9 feet (1-2m) tall.

Habitat: It is found in in dry to moist open forests, clearings, and rocky slopes. It is very adaptable to different conditions. Wetland designation: FACU, it usually occurs in non-wetlands but occasionally is found in wetlands.

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: Oval leaves are opposite with smooth or wavy-toothed margins; sometimes hairy on the undersides; often larger and irregularly lobed on sterile shoots.  Flowers are small, pink to white bells in dense, few-flowered clusters.  Fruit are white berry-like drupes containing two nutlets.

Leaves can be entire or lobed.

In the Landscape: Common Snowberry has long been grown as an ornamental shrub.  Winter is its most conspicuous season, where its white berries stand out against leafless branches.  Its dainty pinkish flowers are also attractive.  Common Snowberry spreads by root suckers and is best given plenty of space to create a wild thicket.  It tolerates poor soil and neglect.  It is great for controlling erosion on slopes, riparian plantings, for restoration and mine reclamation projects. It is also popular in Rain Gardens.

Phenology: Bloom time: May-August; Fruit ripens: September-October, persisting through winter.

 

 

Propagation: Stratify seeds warm for 90 days, then stratify for 180 days at 40º (4º C), or sow as soon as seeds are ripe in a cold frame.  Cuttings of half-ripe wood may be taken in July or August or of mature wood in winter.  Suckers may be divided in the dormant season.  Plants resprout from rhizomes after a fire.

 

Use by People:  Snowberries are high in saponins, which are poorly absorbed by the body.  Although they are largely considered poisonous, (given names like ‘corpse berry’ or ‘snake’s berry’), some tribes ate them fresh or dried them for later consumption.  The berries were used as a shampoo to clean hair.  Crushed berries were also rubbed on the skin to treat burns, warts, rashes and sores; and rubbed in armpits as an antiperspirant.  Various parts were infused and used as an eyewash for sore eyes.  A tea made from the roots was used for stomach disorders; a tea made from the twigs was used for fevers.  Branches were tied together to make brooms.  Bird arrows were also made from the stems.

Use by Wildlife: Saponins are much more toxic to some animals, such as fish; hunting tribes sometimes put large quantities of snowberries in streams or lakes to stupefy or kill fish. “The Green River tribe say that when these berries are plentiful, there will be many dog salmon, for the white berry is the eye of the dog salmon.” Common snowberry is an important browse for deer, antelope, and Bighorn Sheep; use by elk and moose varies.  The berries are an important food for grouse, grosbeaks, robins and thrushes.  Bears also eat the fruit.  The shrub provides good cover and nesting sites for gamebirds, rabbits, and other small animals.  Pocket gophers burrow underneath it. The pink flowers attract hummingbirds, but are mostly pollinated by bees.  The leaves are eaten by the Sphinx Moth larvae.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Black Twinberry Lonicera involucrata

Black Twinberry                       Caprifoliaceae-the Honeysuckle Family

Lonicera involucrata (Richardson) Banks ex Spreng.

(Lon-IH-sir-ruh  in-voh-loo-KRAY-tuh)

Names:  Black Twinberry is also known as Involucred, Bracted, Bearberry, Fly or Fourline Honeysuckle; or Coast Twinberry.  Involucrata refers to the involucres, or bracts that surround the flowers and fruit. Twinberry refers to the 2 berries surrounded by the bracts.

Relationships:  Honeysuckles have long been a garden favorite, grown mostly for their sweetly-scented, nectar-producing flowers.  The common name, honeysuckle, comes from the fact that children enjoy sucking nectar from the base of the flowers for a sweet treat.  Plants in the genus, Lonicera, are often twining vines but many are arching shrubs.  There are about 180 species in the Northern Hemisphere, with about 100 from China, ~20 from North America, and the rest from Europe or North Africa.  The name Lonicera is derived from Adamus Lonicerus (Adam Lonitzer), a German botanist, author of the herbal, Kräuterbuch (1557).  Unfortunately, many invasive ornamental species of Lonicera may be found growing in natural areas.

Distribution of Black Twinberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution:  This species is found from southeast Alaska to southern California; across most of Canada; from western Montana to Chihuahua in northern Mexico; with isolated communities in the Great Lakes region; listed as endangered in Wisconsin and threatened in Michigan.

Growth:  It grows from 1.5-9 feet (.5-3m)

Habitat: Black Twinberry is found in moist, open forests, streamsides, and edges.  Wetland designation: FAC+*, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters: Black Twinberry has opposite leaves that are broadly lance-shaped. It has paired, tubular, yellow flowers arising from the leaf axils.  The flowers are 5-lobed, surrounded by large, green or purple bracts.  Fruits are shiny, black “twin” berries surrounded by purplish-red bracts.  Young, green twigs are 4-angled in cross-section.

 

In the Landscape:  It is an attractive shrub and should be used more in the garden.  It is a great “edge” species when planted between a forest and more open area.  It can be used in a hedgerow or in a Rain Garden.  Its fresh, green leaves are similar to Indian Plum; and its dainty, yellow flowers and colorful bracts add interest throughout spring, summer, and fall. Black Twinberry is great for reclamation plantings on riparian sites, in wet meadows and in forests.

Phenology: Bloom time:  April-August (May at peak); Fruit ripens: September.

 

 

Propagation:  Stratify seeds at 38º (3º C) for 120 days or sow them as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame. Cuttings of half-ripe wood may be taken in July or August or of mature wood in November.  Layering in the fall is also possible.

Use by People: Natives used the leaves, bark and twigs for a variety of medicinal purposes. An infusion of bark was used as a soak for sore feet and legs, as an eyewash, or in the treatment of coughs.  Women chewed the leaves during confinement.  Leaves were also chewed and applied to itchy skin and various sores.  The berries were mostly considered poisonous, but were sometimes eaten for food.  The fruit or leaves were used to induce vomiting for purification or after poisoning.  The berries were applied to the scalp to prevent dandruff or to prevent hair from turning gray.  The juice of the berries was used to paint the faces of dolls and for basketry dye.

Use by Wildlife: Most tribes associate this plant with the crow; other birds such as grouse, grosbeaks, juncos, waxwings, thrushes, flickers, finches, and quail eat the berries too.  Bears also eat the berries.  Black Twinberry provides cover for small animals.  Although hummingbirds may visit Twinberry flowers, they are mostly pollinated by insects, as are many “Fly Honeysuckles.”

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Red Twinberry

Lonicera utahensis S. Watson

Red Twinberry is similar to Black Twinberry but has more rounded leaves and lacks the big bracts surrounding the flowers and fruit; it has red fruit and its flowers are a creamy-yellow, nearly white.  It is found from southern British Columbia to central Oregon in the Olympic Mountains, North Cascades, and central Oregon; and in the Rocky Mountains from Alberta to the border of Arizona and New Mexico.  It can be used similarly in the landscape as Black Twinberry.  It is a valuable summer and fall browse for elk, but a minor browse species for white-tailed deer and moose.  Fruits are dispersed by birds, such as grouse, rodents, and bears.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

There are two other smaller Honeysuckle shrubs that may be encountered in the Pacific Northwest. Bluefly Honeysuckle, Lonicera caerulea var. cauriana has white “twin” flowers and grows 0.5-6 feet (0.2-m) tall.  The Eurasian variety, Sweetberry Honeysuckle, Lonicera caerulea var. edulis is widely grown in Russia for its edible blue berries; ours have red berries (a thin fleshy cup).  Purpleflower Honeysuckle or Boob-berry, Lonicera conjugialis grows 0.5-4.5 feet (0.6-1.5m) and has reddish-purple flowers followed by paired red berries that are often fused together.  Both are found mostly in the mountains; from Mount Adams, in Washington, through the Cascades in Oregon to the Sierras of California, with a few in the northern Rockies.  Both bloom in June or July; and may be good choices in a landscape where smaller shrubs are desired.

           

 

 

Hairy Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula

Hairy Honeysuckle

 Lonicera hispidula (Lindl.) Douglas ex Torr. & A. Gray

(Lon-IH-sir-ruh  hisp-ih-DOO-luh)

Lonicera hispidulaNames:  Hairy Honeysuckle is also called Pink Honeysuckle or California (Pink or Hairy) Honeysuckle.  Hispidula means covered with bristly hairs. The common name, honeysuckle, comes from the fact that children enjoy sucking nectar from the base of the flowers for a sweet treat.  The name Lonicera is derived from Adamus Lonicerus (Adam Lonitzer), a German botanist, author of the herbal, Kräuterbuch (1557).

Relationships: Plants in the genus, Lonicera, are often twining vines but many are arching shrubs.  There are about 180 species in the Northern Hemisphere, with about 100 from China, ~20 from North America, and the rest from Europe or North Africa.

 

 

 

Distribution of Hairy Honeysuckle from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Hairy Honeysuckle from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Hairy Honeysuckle is native from Vancouver Island, in British Columbia to southern California; on the west side of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon; in the Sierras and coastal mountains of California.

Growth: More often a sprawling, shrubby vine, it may also climb up to 3-18 feet (1-6m).

Habitat: It grows in open forests, on drier south, or west slopes, but often grows in coastal riparian areas in California.

 

 

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: Opposite leaves are variously hairy, sometimes smooth; with the terminal pair joined to form a disc.  Pink (or yellow tinged with pink), tubular flowers are born in terminal clusters, accompanied by a pair of axillary clusters.  The flowers are two-lipped with the lips about as long as the tube; curling back as the flowers open.  Fruits are bright red berries.  Stems are hollow.

In the Landscape:  Hairy Honeysuckle can be used as a ground cover on a dry slope or may be trained on a trellis.  Its attractive, pink flowers are another hummingbird favorite, so it is also a good choice for a wildlife garden.

Phenology: Bloom time: June-August; Fruit ripens: September.

Propagation: Sow seeds as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame or stratify for 90 days at 40º (4º C).  Cuttings root easily; they are best taken of half-ripe wood in July or August or mature wood in November.

Use by people: Natives in California used the hollow stems for pipe stems and the burned wood ashes for tattooing.

Use by Wildlife: The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds.  The berries are eaten by grouse, pheasants, flickers, robins, thrushes, bluebirds, waxwings, grosbeaks, finches, and juncos. Small birds may make nests within the twining branches.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn